A diagnosis of frozen shoulder is usually based on the classic symptoms of pain and stiffness in the shoulder.
Diagnosing the condition early on is important as corrective physiotherapy and shoulder exercises can protect the shoulder from further stiffening and damage.
This helps to prevent progression of the condition and preserve some range of motion in the shoulder. Early diagnosis and treatment also helps to prevent long-term damage and permanently restricted shoulder movement.
Some of the steps taken to diagnose frozen shoulder are described below:
Evaluation of symptoms
The diagnosing physician examines the shoulder and asks the patient about their symptoms including when they started and how severe the pain is. The physician also asks how much the condition is affecting the patient’s day-to-day living and causing sleep deprivation or difficulty driving, for example. The physician will also be interested in any pain felt in other parts of the body as well as other health conditions that may increase the risk of frozen shoulder.
The physician performs a physical examination of the shoulder to assess the range of motion in the arm and shoulder. The patient is asked to move their arm and shoulder in certain ways and directions. Pressure may be applied to the shoulder or arm during the assessment, to help determine what is causing the pain. The shoulder area is also checked for any swelling, bruising or muscle wastage.
Imaging studies such as X-ray, ultrasound scan and magnetic resonance imaging may be used to check for abnormalities and rule out other problems such as arthritis or a torn tendon.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc